KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

GOP Warns Health Law Change Could Use Taxpayer Money To ‘Bail Out’ Insurers

In the meantime, insurers say they want government money to help people who buy catastrophic plans to keep premiums for them low. Also, the employer mandate comes under further attack, and one insurer calls members to manage their health.

Fox News: Republicans Warn Obamacare Rule Tweak Could Trigger Taxpayer Bailout Of Insurers
Top congressional Republicans warned the Obama administration Tuesday it risks violating federal law if it proceeds with a backup plan to transfer "potentially billions" in taxpayer dollars into Obamacare to bail out insurance companies. The Affordable Care Act was originally signed into law with a provision that allows the government to cover insurers that lose money by paying them from a pool of cash collected from insurers that turned a profit. However, administration officials made a rule change in May to the so-called "risk corridors" program that, Republicans say, would allow them to use taxpayer funds from other federal programs -- GOP lawmakers say that's a decision only Congress can make (6/11).

The Associated Press: Insurers Want Subsidies For People Buying Catastrophic Plans
Insurers want to change President Barack Obama's health care law to provide financial assistance for people buying bare-bones coverage. That would entice the healthy and the young, the industry says, holding down premiums. So-called catastrophic plans are currently not eligible for the law's subsidies, and only 2 percent of the 8 million consumers who signed up this year picked one. Subsidies bring down the cost of monthly premiums. The proposed change is part of a package of recommendations that America's Health Insurance Plans, the main industry trade group, plans to release Wednesday. Others address how to smooth transitions for consumers who switch insurance companies, as well as making it easier for patients to find out which hospitals and doctors are in particular plans and whether their medications are covered (Alonso-Zaldivar, 6/11).

The Washington Post: Obamacare's Employer Mandate Is Under Attack From Both Sides. Will It Survive? 
Critics of the health care law, including many business owners, have long bemoaned a provision that requires employers to provide health coverage to their workers. Now, some of the law's supporters are starting to call for the rule's elimination, too (Harrison, 6/10).

The New York Times: A Health Insurer Calls, With Questions
Not long after she signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Judy Shoemaker received a phone call that puzzled her. The caller ... asked Ms. Shoemaker to take a survey about health care issues, so information could be provided to her physician. ... Lauren Perlstein, a spokeswoman for the Health Care Service Corporation, parent of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and plans in four other states, said in an email that the company contacted new policy holders to help "new members get the proper coverage and medical assistance they need, by helping guide them through the health care system." ... Ms. O’Leary said she was not aware of any consumers who had been improperly terminated from coverage, but that she considered the calls a "red flag." She advises clients not to answer health questions from their insurers unless they have an active claim. (Carrns, 6/10).

And on the issue of how the health law is affecting one woman's coverage in California --

The California Health Report: How The ACA Is Changing Lives
The federal health law known as the Affordable Care Act has become a partisan punching bag in Washington D.C., but for singer Nola Shepherd, the new law could not sound any sweeter. The law gave her peace of mind when she lost her job, and now she sees it as part of the foundation for a new business she is trying to get off the ground. Shepherd, a 50-year-old singer and songwriter who lives with her partner Jim Quealy in Seal Beach, was laid off from her executive assistant job at a Caterpillar dealership in February. The coverage available to her through the old COBRA Program for the unemployed was beyond her financial reach. Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Shepherd is paying $1 a month, a rate based on the low income she currently receives from unemployment insurance (Portner, 6/11).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.